Address to the 2010 Federal Coalition Campaign Launch
Posted on Sunday, 8 August 2010
Isn’t it great to lead a united political party with a deputy I can trust, a predecessor who’s a friend and a former prime minister who’s a hero!
My fellow Australians, this election is about you. It’s about your future, your family’s future and our nation's future.
But not everyone thinks so.
The Labor Party thinks that this election is all about them. They’re worried about who gets the top job while the Coalition wants to create more jobs.
They’re worried about their own squabbles while we want to help you through your struggles. They react only to a bad poll while we respond to your concerns. They will do anything to win while we know that we must do everything we can to secure your future.
That’s why men and women of Australia I’m asking for your support to end the waste, pay back the debt, stop the big new taxes, stop the boats and help struggling families.
So today, my fellow Liberals and Nationals, we face a historic challenge. Not since 1975 has there been such a time in Australian politics. Our task is nothing less than to save Australia from the worst government in its history.
Now I know this is a big claim but consider the facts. This is a government that’s broken promises, that’s wasted money and tried to clobber the country’s most successful industry with a great big new tax.
Just six weeks ago, it politically executed its own leader, thereby effectively admitting that it had failed. Never before in Australian history has an elected prime minister been removed from office by his own party in a first term of that government.
Six weeks ago the government had lost its way, on its own admission, and since then it’s just got worse.
The secret deal to fix the mining tax has fallen apart and the anti-tax ads are back on air. The deal that was supposed to stop the boats got lost somewhere in the Timor Sea and the boats keep coming. And its policy to deal with climate change is one of the greatest failures of nerve ever seen from an Australian government: to select 150 people at random from the phone book and ask them to make the decision.
I say to the people of Australia, it’s no way to run a government and it’s no way to treat a country.
Six weeks ago, Kevin Rudd was apparently so toxic to the Labor brand that he had to be politically assassinated. But since then Julia Gillard has become so toxic to the Labor brand that she’s had to be rescued by the man she replaced.
I say, it’s time to end this soap opera and to give Australia back a grown up government.
As things stand, it doesn’t really matter which Labor leader fronts the cameras because the faceless men are always in charge. They can analyse a poll but they can’t read a balance sheet. They can execute a leader but they can’t execute a programme. They’re good at politics but they’re absolutely hopeless at running a government .
To all the decent Labor people embarrassed by the incompetent patronage machines that the NSW and Queensland Labor governments are; to everyone anxious that the NSW Labor mafia is now running the country, I say: let’s bury this era of gutless spin and give our country a fresh start where politicians say what they mean and do what they say.
But I say also to my fellow Liberals and Nationals I say: The public are asking us to do more than just replace a bad government. They are asking us to restore some sense of honour and integrity to Australia’s public life.
We must offer the Australian people a better way. So I say again, if elected a Coalition government will end the waste, pay back the debt, stop the big new taxes, stop the boats and help struggling families and we will do that from day one.
From day one under a Coalition government, the mining industry could do again what it does best: creating wealth and employing hundreds of thousands of Australians without the threat of an investment killing, jobs destroying great big new tax.
From day one under a Coalition government, everyone who uses energy – that’s pensioners, retirees, farmers, families and young people – could live without the threat of a carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme that would raise prices, damage industries and cost jobs.
In week one ladies and gentlemen, a Debt Reduction Taskforce will be established, co-chaired by Joe Hockey and Andrew Robb, to get to the bottom of Labor’s waste and mismanagement, to see the real state of the government’s books and to prepare a comprehensive plan to start repaying Australia’s $90 billion debt.
In month one, an economic statement will be issued outlining Australia’s financial risks and opportunities and the new government’s response to them. The Murray Darling Basin plan, buried by Labor, will be released for consultation. And Julie Bishop and I will visit the countries of our neighbourhood to reestablish the bonds of trust broken by the Rudd Gillard government’s preference for a headline over a relationship.
In week one, the Cabinet and the National Security Committee will meet, I will chair it, ministers will attend – in person, not via their bodyguards – and we will take back control of Australia’s borders.
Within a month of taking office, the Coalition will reassure people frightened that Labor’s insulation batts might burn down their homes. In addition to the existing inspection programme, we will reimburse householders who organize their own inspections by qualified tradesmen and further reimburse householders whose insulation has to be removed.
On day one of a Coalition government, I’d pick up the phone to the President of Nauru to reopen the Australian built and Australian funded offshore processing centre – because ladies and gentlemen, the people smugglers need to know that their game is up.
From day one, a Coalition government would stop the school hall rip offs by giving money directly to school P&Cs that wouldn’t waste it.
And on day one ladies and gentlemen, we will safeguard the livelihoods of people who earn their living from the sea.
Under the next Coalition government, parliamentary questions will finally get real answers because I’ll change the old rules that gave ministers endless licence to attack the other side.
As soon as parliament can be recalled, the necessary measures will be taken to provide much tougher penalties against people smuggling including mandatory prison sentences. We know that existing penalties are clearly not a sufficient deterrent because, under Labor, the boats just keep coming. Under the Coalition, every convicted people smuggler will spend at least a year in prison and the worst offenders and repeat offenders will face a minimum of ten years behind bars.
Temporary Protection Visas will be reinstated and the message will be clear. Australia’s borders are back under control and the people smugglers will once more be out of business.
My friends, within three months, preparations for an emissions reduction fund will be under way and the first recruiting for the Green Army will be about to start.
The implementation of our small business reforms will have commenced. A new national violent gangs squad will have been established.
The private health insurance rebate will be safe. Our health reforms will be underway. The first COAG meeting will have been held and it would not have adjourned without agreement on boards and more beds for our public hospitals.
As well, within three months, in person and on the spot, I would have reassured our soldiers in Afghanistan that Australians support their mission. Our most important trading partners and our principal allies would know that they can count on Australia.
These are the vital tasks that the Australian people expect us to perform and they will commence from day one of the life of an incoming Coalition government.
A Coalition government, first and foremost, means prudent and responsible stewardship of the nation’s finances. After all, it’s the reforms of John Howard and Peter Costello, not the Rudd-Gillard government’s spending spree that have protected Australia from the global financial crisis.
Australia’s debt and deficit problem may not be quite as bad as some other countries but that’s because we started from a much stronger position than almost anyone else. Only a desperate, a truly desperate, Labor Party could seriously maintain that putting insulation batts into roofs or building overpriced school halls kept Australia out of recession.
The Coalition understands that every dollar that government spends is held on trust from the taxpayers. A Coalition government will never take your taxes for granted because I know just how hard you work to pay for them. That’s why the new spending that the Coalition has announced in this campaign is fully costed and fully funded mostly by reductions in other government spending.
Under the Coalition, spending will always be less and tax will always be lower than under Labor. We will take the high road to surplus of cutting spending, not the low road of increasing taxes, so our surplus will be achieved with the government’s share of the economy smaller than it would be under Labor.
So much of Labor’s current spending is for new bureaucracies or involves giving extra money to the Labor states to do the job they should be doing anyway such as meeting recommended hospital waiting times.
This is the sort of spending that the Coalition will redirect to real benefits that the Australian people might actually notice. Our spending proposals are targeted, responsible and affordable even in an era of fiscal restraint. They have three over-riding objectives: to ease the cost of living pressures on families, to make our people and our society more productive and to keep our country strong and secure.
Only the Coalition knows how to stop the boats. We’ve had 150 boats carrying more than 7000 illegal entrants since the Rudd-Gillard government weakened our border protection.
It’s no coincidence that public support for the immigration programme increased after the former government largely stopped the boats. Australians just won’t support a large immigration programme until they’re confident that the government can control our borders. Immigration has to be sustainable if public support is to be maintained so the Coalition would cut more than 100,000 a year from the 2009 immigration number.
Water is probably the most urgent environmental challenge facing our country. The Coalition will end Labor’s procrastination and fully and finally implement the Howard/Turnbull/Anderson plan for the Murray Darling basin. Carefully targeted water buybacks plus much more efficient use of water has the potential to rejuvenate the Murray mouth and to protect Adelaide’s water supply.
As well, the Coalition will establish a standing Green Army, 15,000 strong, to complement the landcare efforts of farmers, volunteers and national park rangers. We’ve long had state emergency services and rural fire services to cope with natural disasters. So why not start something similar to deal with the ongoing environmental emergency of land degradation?
I want to address a few words to people thinking of voting Green. I share your concerns for the future of our country and fully accept that we have only one planet to live on.
The Coalition will definitely meet our 2020 emission reduction targets. But rather than taxing consumers, the Coalition will buy abatements, particularly through soil improvements and tree planting. That way, we’ll improve agricultural productivity as well as reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The Coalition, in fact, is now the only major political party with an effective policy to reduce emissions. What we will never do, though, is damage our economy with futile gestures.
So ladies and gentlemen, it’s more important than ever for government to be frugal when Australian families have to be so careful with their own spending. My wife Margie and I know what it’s like to juggle a family budget and share people’s anger when government wastes billions on indulgent schemes designed to fix headlines rather than to fix problems.
There’s little point announcing new initiatives for families if the money to pay for them has to be borrowed or taken from the very families it’s supposed to help. That’s why the Coalition’s family initiatives in this election don’t rely on extra borrowing or on new taxes on consumers.
We’ll help with additional support for education expenses including school fees and child care costs. And also importantly for the education of people with disabilities. There’ll be 3000 more high care nursing home beds and 2800 more public hospital beds including 800 for mental health. We’ll have more after hours GP services and better care of chronic disease by increasing the Medicare rebates for these services. More affordable medical services mean fewer people crowding into hospital emergency departments.
In the longer term, a Coalition government will reform health services not just fund them. Public hospitals will be run by community boards not by unaccountable bureaucrats. And by providing 100 per cent of public hospital funding, where the states agree, we might finally end the blame game that Kevin Rudd talked about but did not fix.
Of course, making public hospitals and public schools more responsive to the communities they serve is an economic reform as well as a social one.
The introduction of a fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme is the obligation that a serious political party owes to modern society and that an aware political parent owes to his three daughters. These days, most families need more than one income to survive and because 62 per cent of mothers are in the workforce just prior to having a baby, paid parental leave reinforces the most conservative instinct of all: the instinct to have a family.
It’s good for women because it gives them a real choice to combine paid work and family. It’s good for families because it gives them real help when they are most financially vulnerable. Labor’s scheme by contrast is just a re-badged Baby Bonus; it’s certainly not the real wage that families need to pay their bills and to make ends meet. That’s why we will pay replacement wages like the vast majority of schemes around the world.
Our paid parental leave scheme is good for business because government will manage the paperwork and pay employees directly. Labor makes employers the paymaster and that’s an extra burden that small business should not have to cop.
And finally, our paid parental leave scheme is good for the economy because it gives the population, participation and productivity boost that’s necessary if Australia is to avoid the demographic issues associated with an ageing population.
Like paid parental leave, our seniors employment incentive payment is another important participation reform.
And there is a third participation-boosting reform that the Coalition wants to implement: breaking the cycle of welfare dependency for young indigenous people and others trapped in intergenerational poverty; provided they are prepared to renounce their welfare entitlement in return for a guaranteed job. The Coalition is determined to back this insight of Noel Pearson because real leadership in the community deserves real support from government.
My friends, the Rudd Gillard government should not have adopted just one of the Henry Review’s recommendations and largely ignored the other 137. Some of Henry’s recommendations are impractical and a few wrong-headed. Some, though, such as his recommendations for lower, simpler, fairer personal income taxes and an end to the money-go-round that traps people in poverty should be the foundation of Australia’s next round of tax reform.
So within a month of taking office, an incoming Coalition government will publish all the modeling associated with all the Henry recommendations to foster the tax debate that Australia needs and now must have. Acknowledging that tax reform is much harder to pursue with a $40 billion deficit than with Peter Costello’s $20 billion surplus, even so, an incoming Coalition government will within 12 months of coming to office, an incoming Coalition government will outline its plans and its timetable for further reform.
Rest assured that no one will accuse the next Coalition government of being all talk and no action. Change for the better is coming and it will run to a strict timetable.
But I’ve got to say ladies and gentlemen, this has been a tough campaign and it will continue to be a tough campaign. We are running against a first term federal Labor government, we are running against five state Labor governments and we are running against the whole weight of a union movement that basically just bankrolls the Labor Party.
As the election draws closer, more and more Labor MPs will be disguising themselves as community independents. On the ground, Labor MPs are already treating this election as an auction to be won by the most irresponsible local spender. By sandbagging marginal seats, this bad federal government hopes to chisel its way to a dishonourable victory like the South Australian and Tasmanian Labor governments did earlier this year. We cannot let that happen.
And I say to everyone right around Australia concerned about where this government is going and about what is happening to our political culture , make no mistake, to change this government you have to throw out your local Labor MP.
So Labor’s re-election strategy is based on fear and lies. Labor’s advertising blitz will be all fear and smear. Soon the airways will be full of it, letter boxes will be stuffed with it. The public, though, are not mugs. Why should they give the Labor Party a second chance, people are thinking, when it wouldn’t give its own leader one? In fact ladies and gentlemen, the only unfair dismissal that anyone has asked me about in the course of this campaign is Kevin Rudd’s.
Over the past eight months, growing disapproval of the Rudd-Gillard government has become an increasing readiness to change it. I want to say to all my colleagues, especially to Warren Truss and to Julie Bishop, that your steadiness has been an important part of our earning the people’s trust as a credible alternative government.
And so I say to the Australian people, my team is ready to govern. We won’t have to learn on the job because we’ve done the job before. Fifteen members of the Coalition shadow cabinet have already been ministers. Seven members of the shadow cabinet have already been cabinet ministers in the most effective government of recent times.
And so ladies and gentlemen as we gird ourselves for the final two weeks of this campaign I want to say how proud and pleased and honoured I am to be this party’s standard bearer.
As a liberal, I support lower taxes, smaller government and greater freedom. As a conservative, I support a fair go for families and respect for values which have stood the test of time. As an Australian, I support policies which work and which don’t trifle with our country’s future. Mine is a genial pragmatic political creed based above all on respect for the people and the communities that have produced here perhaps the most free, fair and prosperous society on earth.
We are a great country but we have been let down by our government. Let’s not give a bad government the second chance that it does not deserve and that our country cannot afford. Let’s change this bad government before it can do any more damage. Let’s once more give Australia the good government that a great country deserves.
And let’s start, from day one, repaying the debt, stopping the big new taxes, stopping the boats and helping struggling families.
Ladies and gentlemen, this election is the supreme challenge of my life. I will stand up for Australia. I will stand up for real action and I know that you will join me.